Last night’s 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers wrapped up a busy month of travel for the Carolina Hurricanes. With two home games left on the December schedule, the Canes have gone 6-4-1 over a stretch that had eight road games but only three home games.
All things considered, it’s been a decent run — so why does it feel like Santa left coal in the Canes’ stockings?
Three-game Losing Streak
Losing streaks are never fun; so when they happen, it always kills the mood. Last night’s loss to the Rangers extends the Canes’ current losing streak to three games -- their longest since a four-game streak in November.
During this run, the number of goals the Canes have allowed has soared. The Canes have given up 17 goals over the last three games — that’s more in three games than the 14 they surrendered during the first eight games of the month.
Friday’s game saw the Canes yield five goals, two on the power play, on only 24 shots. Carolina remains one of the NHL’s best defensive teams, but recently they’ve been far too easy to score on. The first step to ending the current losing streak will be to tighten up on the defensive end.
To that end, a home start for Petr Mrazek should help. With all the road games in December (and as a nod to his excellent play to start the month), the coaching staff ordered up a heavy dose of James Reimer. Now that the Canes are back home for their next seven games, Mrazek will be the starter more often than not.
An Unfriendly Neighborhood
It’s a problem that stands out like a sore thumb: the Canes have been awful against their own division. They’re now 2-7-1 against the Metro and 20-7-1 against everyone else. This obviously has vital implications on the standings (more on that later), but beyond that, it also has a demoralizing effect.
Henrik Lundqvist’s success against the Hurricanes is well-documented. So, on a night where the Canes got an early goal against Lundqvist, it looked like the Canes might finally hand Lundqvist a loss instead of the other way around. Yet, it wasn’t to be. Five goals later, the Canes once again left MSG without any points, and Lundqvist notched another win against the Canes.
With last night’s win, the Rangers - the rebuilding Rangers, picked by almost no one to finish above the bottom two in the division! - remain on course to sweep the season series against the Canes, with one game remaining in Raleigh in February. As with any loss to a divisional opponent, the impact on the standings is meaningful. The win pulled the Rangers within six points of the Canes in the standings; the Canes remain at 46 points and now hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
If the Canes are going to secure a playoff spot — let alone challenge for the Metro title, which is becoming more and more of a long shot every day — they’ll need to secure more points against their Metro rivals.
Overshadowed Success Stories
Lost in the gloom that hangs over a losing streak are the good or even great individual performances. So is the case at the moment for Carolina.
Lucas Wallmark is enjoying his best stretch of play in the NHL. He scored the game’s opening goal last night and then set up Brett Pesce’s goal in the 2nd period with a nifty saucer pass. After the goal and assist last night, Wallmark has now registered a point in five straight games, the longest run of his career.
Teuvo Teravainen extended his own assist streak to eight games with the primary assist on Wallmark’s goal. Teravainen continues to fly under the radar, given the season stats of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Dougie Hamilton. Yet, his 38 points (7g, 31a) now lead the team, and his plus-14 rating is tops among Carolina forwards.
After two games without a goal, Aho got his 22nd of the year last night. That brings him into a tie for 4th in the NHL, one behind Alex Ovechkin. Aho will get the opportunity to tie or pass Ovechkin in person with two of the Canes’ next three games against Washington.
To Wrap It Up
People spend this time of year in different ways. For some, it’s time to make long trips back home; for others, it’s time to clean up the house after the company has departed; for still others, the celebrations continue a little while longer. For the Carolina Hurricanes, it’s time to settle in for a seven-game homestand that starts tonight with a visit from the aforementioned Capitals.